This self-proclaimed life-changing guide follows in the footsteps of the recent Crazy, Stupid, Love with a British spin on a predominantly American genre. The story follows James (Phillips) a self-confessed loser who has had no luck with women and spends far too much time on a whole range of nerdy pursuits. After his close friend commits sucide and leaves a video will, telling James to not become a "dateless wonder", the protagonist decides to transform his life for the better. James pushes himself to get out and meet someone and recruits the master of seduction, Ampersand, who takes it upon himself to help James become a master with the ladies.
The film is ambitious and almost tries too hard to slot into the vein of American Pie and Superbad. As a result there is lots thrown at the audience and the jokes hit and miss, arriving in all sorts of forms from witty dialogue to excruciatingly awkward dates. The story does have a few original points and the idea of changing ones life for the better is a compelling direction for James to go in initially. There is some creative editing in spells and the quick pace of the film aids in keeping the momentum up.
Phillips does a decent job of making James a likeable nerd, however that role does feel a little overplayed at times. Conway injects some much needed energy on his arrival and the two combine fairly well but there is no real excitement throughout the film. The many cameos in this movie form a formidable cast list with the likes of Grant, Salmon, Maskell and Kemp performing well in their moments and getting a few laughs. However for all the star power on show there are some exceptionally weak performances from members of the supporting cast, with only the delightful Leonidas adding much weight to James' group of unconvincing nerdy friends.
A sense of consistency is often missing, with some illogical decisions emanating from the characters. For example in one scene James is determined that he is going to change his life and meet someone and in the following scene he is forced to meet a new girl and immediately changes his tune, exclaiming that he doesn't want to go through with it. These mishaps as well as the apparent low production values make it a real effort to watch at times.
How To Stop Being A decides to continue the story long after the sensible finish. The final act has an incredible shift in tone and pace and goes off the rails to the extreme. The jokes dry up, there is little for our favourite characters like Ampersand to do and the groups motivations lead to a bizarre conclusion feeling more like a romance drama than a comedy. It feels excessively rushed as well as forced. The half-decent work of the first seventy minutes is undone by the last half hour, with absolute boredom set in by the final moments. When the two-minute gag reel during the credits provided more humour than the preceding film, you know you're in trouble.